This is the first installment of a personal project that is near and dear to my heart.
Just a little preface though. I have a pretty skewed relationship with food. It looks a lot like this:
Day 1: Healthy. This feels good. On the fast track to getting to my goal weight in no time.
Day 2: Healthy. Still feeling great. Why would I ever want to eat fast food again? GROSS. Hey look someone brought in cake, but it's totally not worth it.
Day 3: Screw it. Cheeseburger and candy corn. I was so good yesterday. I can run a little longer tonight.
Day 4: Seriously. Screw it. Double-decker taco. At least I don't eat Hamburger Helper. Why is there a rotting cucumber in the fridge?
Day 5: Guilt. Why do my ribs hurt when I eat french fries? My body is trying to murder me. Do I have gallstones? My poor eating habits have led me to gallstones. They're going to have to take out my gallbladder because I can't stop eating french fries. But they're so delicious. If healthy food was really so good for you it would taste like french fries.
Day 6: Panic: You are killing yourself slowly with food. Plus I think you just gained 2 pounds. Thankfully I just pinned 10 different images of sliced cucumbers with various greek yogurt dips. Tomorrow is going to be a totally new, positive way of life. Tonight is going to be chocolate cake in a mug.
Day 7: Healthy. Good news, I just bought a 5 pound bag of Quinoa. Man, cucumbers are so good.
It's an endless cycle, and it probably annoys the crap out of my husband who frequently is told that potato chips are either "delicious" or "poison", depending on my level of guilt and shame.
I attach a lot of emotion and excess baggage to eating, whether it's conscious or not. As a child, I spent much of the holidays and summers surrounded by a large, extended Italian family. Dozens of relatives and "relatives" (Italian-American families amiright?) would gather together and EAT. And if you didn't have at least one of everything on your plate, it was put on your plate. Not coming back for seconds was looked at with concern.
It was so wonderful, and it felt like it would never go away. I was a kid, and when you're a kid time and family are seemingly infinite.
Now most of these events are relegated to my memories. My family is no longer in one tidy convenient location. We are scattered across the country, for jobs, change of pace, even for love. Many have passed on.
I've chosen this project because I want to honor these moments and family members. I am also trying to learn that these memories don't define my relationship to food...but instead the way we gathered together as a family was the most important thing.
This particular recipe was from my Great-Great Aunt Edith, given to me by my Grandmother. She was a big presence in the large celebratory gatherings I frequently experienced as a child in summers on Long Island. The original recipe is actually a "Prune Cake", but no. Just no. I updated to include figs. And while my Great-Great Aunt was probably never using a cast iron skillet in her kitchen in Queens, NY, the best thing about families is that they love you no matter what liberties you take in your life. Let me just say that the cast iron skillet is a nod to my other side of the family, those keep-my-skillet-good-and-greasy Appalachian mountain folks. Also, cooking in cast iron is really nice for you anemic folks out there who might need a little extra iron in your diet.
Skillet Fig Cake
Slice figs in half. I don't have an exact amount...whatever it takes to make a pretty pattern on top of the cake. Also, brew enough coffee to have 3/4 cup on hand for the recipe, and if you're like me, 4 cups to drink while you're waiting.
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups oil
3 eggs - beat well
2 3/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tsp baking soda
Add dry mixture to above and also add 3/4 Cups hot coffee. Mix well. Pour batter into cast iron skillet and arrange figs on top. Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes.
Let rest until cooled "completely" and sprinkle with powdered sugar, which if you are as impatient as I am means poking it every minute and then saying "screw it, I can't wait any longer" and burning the roof of your mouth. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Here's some more pretty photos. Shot with my Pentax 67 using Portra 400 pushed 2 stops.